Rembrandt van Rijn is generally considered one of the greatest painters in European art history and the most important painter in Dutch history. Rembrandt is known as a painter of light and shade and as an artist who favoured an uncompromising realism. Rembrandt possessed an exceptional ability to render people in their various moods and dramatic guises. No artist ever combined more delicate skill with more energy and power. In all, Rembrandt produced over 600 paintings, 300 etchings, and 2,000 drawings. He was a prolific painter of self-portraits, producing almost a hundred of them throughout his long career. Together they give a remarkably clear picture of the man, his appearance, and - more importantly - his deeper being, as revealed by his face. His immediate family, his wife Saskia, his son Titus, and his common-law wife Hendrickje, often figured prominently in his paintings. The core of Rembrandt's creative work, however, consists of biblical and - to a lesser extent - historical, mythological, and allegorical paintings.
Greatest Works by Rembrandt
Although it is difficult to define one Rembrandt painting as better than another, several of his works have reached immortal fame. These are some of his universally transcending works.
- The Return of the Prodigal Son (1669)
- The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp (1632)
- The Nightwatch (1642)
- Danae (1647)
- The Jewish Bride (1666)
The Return of the Prodigal Son (1669)
This piece is the most monumental of Rembrandt's paintings and stands above the achievements of all other Baroque artists of the time in its evocation of mood and human tenderness. Rembrandt painted this masterpiece towards the end of his career, but it is obvious that his skill in realism had not faded. Critics of this piece remark that age had only brought Rembrandt a heightened sense of psychological and spiritual insight. The artist's use of expressive lighting and coloring in this painting along with the most simple of settings help the audience to feel the full impact of the event. Wanting to depict a tired and defeated son returning home to his father, Rembrandt compassionately painted the outstretched arms of a man happy to see his son return to him. The painting is symbolic of homecoming and illuminates the human willingness to offer shelter to those who have experienced darkness.
The Anatomy Lecture of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp (1632)
This famous Rembrandt painting depicts a doctor named Tulp demonstrating an autopsy to several men who are gathered around him. The focal point of the painting is the patient. Rembrandt utilized his skill in using colors strategically to draw attention to the body lying on the table and to significant areas. Although the painting depicts the study of death, Rembrandt was careful to add a heightened sense of emotionalism and sensitivity to a scene that could be otherwise cold and unfeeling.
The Nightwatch (1642)
Probably the most famous and controversial of all the Rembrandt paintings is The Night Watch. Critics of the painting charged that the somber and moody lighting suggested mysteries hiding in the piece. The title of the painting actually came about due to the rather dark and subdued lighting that Rembrandt chose to use. Originally, the painting had been titled Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but the title was later changed. In this work, Rembrandt uses the technique of chiaroscuro to place the captain wearing black and the lieutenant wearing yellow in the foreground of the painting. It had a dramatic effect, and in fact, Rembrandt paintings are recognized for this art style. The mood in the painting is a celebratory one, but instead of assembling his cast of characters all together, Rembrandt chose instead to depict each man standing alone, as if silently absorbed in their own thoughts.
Danae is a painting by Rembrandt which currently resides in the Hermitage Museum. It depicts the character Danae from Greek mythology, the mother of Perseus. In the old Greece it was related that an oracle revealed that King Argos would die at the hands of the son later to be born to his daughter. In order to save his life, the King sent Danae together with her nursemaid to a cave. But Zeus fell in love with the beautiful Danae, and guessed how to enter the chamber and possess her.
Many were the artists who felt attracted to this legend to reproduce the ideal of female beauty, but only Rembrandt preferred to reflect the passion felt by a woman on seeing her lover, not the physical beauty of an idealised woman, as the one painted by Titian.
Rembrandt gave the figure of Danae a female face and body. On depicting the naked figure of the woman he does not remain indifferent, but is moved, and shakes as if he touched the naked body of his beloved wife Saskia. The naked figures depicted by Rembrandt are a proof of the sensuality and tenderness presented by this passionate artist. Rembrandt did not produce many nude paintings. It is probable that the Puritan environment around him repressed his natural interests.
On 15 June 1985 Rembrandt's painting was attacked by a man later judged insane who poured sulfuric acid on the canvas and cut it twice with his knife. The entire central part of the composition was turned into a mixture of spots with a conglomerate of splashes and areas of dripping paint. The process of restoring the painting began the same day. Following consultations with chemists, art restorers began washing the surface of the painting with water; they kept the painting in the vertical position, and blew mouthfuls of water at the painting to prevent further degradation of the painting. The restoration of the painting was accomplished between 1985 and 1997 by staff of the State Hermitage's Laboratory of Expert Restoration of Easel Paintings.
The Jewish Bride (1666)
The picture of Isaac and Rebecca (The Jewish Bride) has been the subject of many interpretations. The name The Jewish Bride refers to the long-held view that the picture portrayed the Jewish father of a bride bidding farewell to his daughter. A drawing by Rembrandt resulted in what has become the generally accepted description. This painting is also connected with a historical event, although it is restricted to the depiction of two people together. The only thing to remind the observer of the story is the masonry behind the embracing couple. This could be the well where King Abimelech eavesdropped on Isaac and Rebecca - yet this motif, which is still alluded to in the drawing, is absent here.
The strength of this picture, the factor responsible for its effect, may ultimately be seen in the colours themselves. The red colour-tone of Rebecca's dress - one example of the effects generally achieved through colour - is unusually strongly broken, interspersed with dark brown - almost black - particles, but also partially brightened through the use of yellow, and also of white in some places. The fine, varnished texture, partly opaque in nature, partly shimmering through, reveals brush- and spatula-marks. When seen from a few paces away, this weave of colour merges before the observer's gaze, albeit without becoming completely uniform. From an objective point of view, the dark and bright parts could be interpreted as the play of light and shade among the fall of the folds of Rebecca's dress, and as the heaviness and softness of the material - as with velvet, for example, which does not fall smoothly and either shimmers in the light or allows one's gaze to sink somewhat into its surface.
Rembrandt van Rijn Art